Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
Whether it be the fault of the screenplay or miscast actors, the admirably
lofty intentions of "Troy" to be a large-scale historical epic got
lost somewhere along its journey to the screen. The $150-million budget
is, for the most part, widely apparent on the screen. From scenes
in which a thousand ships set sale across the ocean to the technically
impressive, engulfing battle sequences between seemingly hundred of
thousands of warriors, there is no doubt that this is a handsomely
mounted motion picture. What "Troy" has in visual spectacle, however,
it lacks in depth and emotion. All of the pretty shots in the world
can't make up for the film's completely hollow core.
Upon a peace offering made between at-odds Greek cities Sparta and
Troy, Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger) falls in love with Paris of Troy
(Orlando Bloom) and escapes back to Troy with he and his elder brother,
Hector (Eric Bana), leaving her mismatched husband, Menelaus (Brendan
Gleeson), in the dust. This single action of Helen, said to be the
most beautiful woman in the world, and Paris, leads to an uprising
in Sparta. With the help of brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox) and warrior
hero Achilles (Br ad Pitt) willing to do his bidding, Menelaus sends
his thousands of troops to Troy to destroy the city once and for all and reclaim Helen.
Those familiar with Homer's famous ancient poem, "The Illiad" (which
this film is loosely based upon), will have no trouble following the
plot trajectory of "Troy." The story is pretty simple, a cut-and-dry
affair that pits the Spartans against Troy in a battle waged not only
because of Helen, but for what amounts to victory bragging rights.
Where director Wolfgang Petersen (2000's "The Perfect Storm") and,
in turn, the viewer gets confused is on which side they should be rooting for.
On Troy's side, we have Helen, who simply wanted to leave an unhappy
circumstance in order to be with Paris, and the other characters met,
including Paris and Hector's father, King Priam (Peter O'Toole), and
Hector's beloved wife, Andromache (Saffron Burrows), are also treated
with a sympathetic hand. However, fighting for Sparta is Achilles,
beheld as one of the greatest warriors who ever lived. That he is
played by toplining matinee idol Brad Pitt (2001's "Ocean's Eleven")
and is also viewed objectively is where things get sticky, especially
considering his muscles and ripped body get more play time than he
does. The lack of a decided viewpoint from screenwriter David Benioff
(2002's "25th Hour") nags at the viewer, leaving them indifferent
to all the carnage on the screen.
It doesn't help that "Troy," at least for its first act, plays like
a candidate for "Mystery Science Theater 3000." None of the three
leads™Brad Pitt, Eric Bana (2003's "Hulk"), and Orlando Bloom (2003's
"Pirates of t he Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl")™are plausible
in their roles, appearing at all times as if they are amateurs from
a low-rent dinner theater simply playing dress up. Not only do they
have difficulty in embodying their parts, but they are all too aesthetically
perfect, with their hair coifed and flowing and their muscles bulging
amidst metal armor, to pass themselves off as people who might have
lived in approximately 1250 B.C. There are times, indeed, when "Troy"
seems more concerned with showing off its male cast member's naked
torsos and bare backsides than actually telling a historically and
emotionally resonating story. This is one instance where Brad Pitt's
gorgeous looks betray him.
The movie becomes more involving in the second half, if only because
the battle scenes are pleasing to look at and astonishing in their
scope. There is also a wonderful scene™easily the most poignant in
the film™where King Priam comes to enemy Achilles to p lead for the
body of his son back. Veteran actor Peter O'Toole, who has not been
recently given nearly enough dramatic work to do, easily delivers
the best performance, bringing distinct levels of honor, regret, and
pathos to King Priam when all the characters surrounding him don't
seem to have three dimensions. The climax, in which Sparta fools its
opponents and finds a way to get past the walls of Troy, is arresting
and primal in a way that the other fighting sequences miss the boat
on. The majority of "Troy" is simply plodding.
By the end of "Troy," audiences are likely to react with indifference.
What is on view diverts the viewer's attention, for the most part,
but there is nobody to latch onto and care about, nor does what either
side is fighting for seem worth it. Sparta merely seems to want to
prove they are stronger than Troy, while Troy retaliates out of duty
and for the concern of Helen. But why? Helen, as played by newcomer
Diane Kruger, is a blank slate, a boring, pretty face without a personality
or soul. "Troy" yearns to be an epic for the ages, something along
the lines of 2000's "Gladiator," but it is more reminiscent of a cheesy
Harlequin romance that just so happens to have lots of big battles and expensive effects.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman